Friday 17 January 2014

de la fenĂȘtre d'en haut

As I've mentioned before, my flat gives me a grandstand view of Bristol and the surroundings; I get to see ravens circling overhead, the local foxes and magpies, psychotic seagulls, loads of aircraft, the occasional car thief (he got away, that one)

I was leaning out of the front window yesterday, as you do, and saw a young man walking a pug. The dog stopped at a tree and stood on tiptoe, arse in air, up against the tree. I watched more closely; someone has been leaving dog poo on the pavement around our way, and it is of a size to make the pug a likely source.

Dog finished its business, while bloke stood there patting his pockets as though hoping to find a plastic bag in one, and looking around to see if he was observed. He bent down, pretending to pick it up, then rose and began walking away.

"Cooeee! Don't forget the dog poo!" I called down to him.

"I was going to get a bag," he shouted; "I live just there." He pointed to a house two doors down. "Haven't you got anything better to do?....transvestite" he added, the intended insult tacked on in a slightly quieter voice as though he didn't want to be challenged on it.

He did reappear, with a Sainsburys carrier bag, and threw the dog poo into a wheelie bin. 

And he walked off muttering what were no doubt further rudenesses, for his own benefit, as I couldn't make out the words.

Have I got anything better to do? -I do have lots of things to do. But time spent watching the world from an upper storey window is seldom time wasted.

Monday 13 January 2014

travelling in books

 It's time to go out visiting bookshops again, now that Christmas and New Year are safely past, and the miniature copies of A Child's Christmas in Wales have disappeared from the front of the shelves, and we look forward to spring.

Immediately after Inking Bitterns came off the press at the beginning of December, I did a quick rush around our local shops. Responses were variable. Some people absolutely loved the book, and gladly took copies. Chief among them was Kathryn Atkins at the Durdham Down Bookshop, who is an enthusiastic promoter of literature and poetry, both in the shop and in Henleaze Library, where she helps to run events. She managed to sell thirty copies of Inking Bitterns in December. Thirty! Gentle reader, that is pretty good going, I can tell you....

We also enjoyed our trips to Devizes and Calne, whose independent bookshops are such nice places to go to, which is presumably why they are still in business. And last week I went over to Thornbury, another nice shop with a good local section, which I like to see.

 You can see the map of stockists here.

Less welcoming was the fairly large independent bookshop in a South Wales county town whose manager looked rather wearily at the book and dismissed it as a 'local book', doomed to vanish without trace. Or the Bath indie shop where, I was told, they only get their books from a central distributor. The folk at Bath's other bookshop, Toppings, were charm itself, and plied me with tea; but they explained that their poetry section is already humungous (they collaborate with Bath Spa Uni's poetry department, apparently) , and my slim volume would vanish without trace into it; so, unless people came in demanding it...

Prize for most unusual stockist goes to NB Electra, afloat on the Grand Union Canal and somewhere near Tring just at the moment (her position is tagged on the map). Suzanne, Electra's skipper, kindly took a bunch of books with her, as we figured that they would appeal to canal folk. So, if you should be on the towpath (or indeed chugging along the cut) and see her, do say hello!

Sunday 12 January 2014

the barking of the fox

Here's Garden Fox, barking at twilight. It's one of a range of calls the local foxes make; yickering when they play or fight, screaming in the mating season. There's not been any screaming this winter; at least, not yet. I wonder if some of the local foxes have died? -in the past few years, there has been a group of three; but this winter I've only seen two at most, and only the solitary one recently. 

Sunday 5 January 2014

a wartime bomber crash in Bristol

An incident over Bristol in April 1941. A Wellington bomber from a Cambridgeshire based Operational Training Unit was on a night training flight. They were supposed to fly to Andover, then turn and go to Sharpness, the harbour on the Severn estuary north of Bristol, presumably to drop practice bombs on a bombing range in the estuary.

They were a few miles south of their intended course, and flew into the cables of two of Bristol's barrage balloons, the second one at Stapleton Road Gas Works sports ground (the site of the present IKEA). Trailing the cable, they lost height and crashed into St Andrew's Park. Of the six crew, three were killed and three survived.

The full story is here at Wellington T2905, a website devoted to this incident.

Saturday 4 January 2014

a bit damp

I agreed with Suzanne that we should get out for a walk on New Year's Day. The weather forecast promised us constant downpours and high winds, but we agreed that it's always fun to see waves crashing on sea walls at times like this. And you never know when the rain will stop and give you a lovely day, snatched from the jaws of a gloomy Met Office prognostication.

Some you win, some you don't entirely win. The rain didn't let up. Though Suzanne's brolly did. Every bin we passed that day was stuffed with broken brollies.

Oh, look, that's Steepholm in the background there. 

I kept mine furled, and used it to probe the sand before stepping off the shingle at the foot of the breakwater. Good job I did, as it wasn't sand but mud, and deep mud too. Well, this was Weston Super Mare.

What we needed was a beach shelter. They proved to be non-existent in W-S-M. Maybe they encourage The Wrong Sort. But we found this one at Sand Bay. Facing out to sea, with the wind blowing offshore. A perfect spot to set up the Trangia and make strong tea with condensed milk in, and admire the view of the raging ocean.

In the distant grey of the water, an occasional off-white line would rush from right to left, indicating a wave breaking along the mudflats. Look, Flatholm! Wales is over there somewhere.